Sunday, 21 October 2012

Reduce to the Max

Festonati con Sugo di Stratto, Marsala & Straccetti di Manzo
Festonati with Sicilian Tomato Paste & Marsala Sauce and Strips of Beef

Back in the old days, before canned tomatoes or bottled sauces, people had to make do with what they had and would bottle and store their own sauce. They would also sun-dry the tomatoes for use in the winter months... poor peoples food that became very much something rather chi-chi just a few years ago.

But another thing they would do in Sicily, would be to grind down the sun dried tomatoes into a paste, called "stratto", which was used when things got really tough, to season and flavor food, or as a base for a tomato sauce. I still had a little left, that I had brought back from Sicily last time and decided tonight to do something a little crazy with it... and it ended up looking like this... and tasting divine!

The pasta I used was a shape called "festonati" and these tubes are perfect, with their little ridges, for dishes with plenty of sauce... they seem to take up the sauce and hold it inside and make for a pretty amazing dish!

I started the pasta boiling and then got busy with my "sauce" of sorts. I started a little sofritto going- finely chopped onion, celery and carrot, added a little crushed garlic and sautéed them in a little olive oil until the onion became translucent, at which point I added the finely cut strips of beef. I had the last piece of the thinly sliced minute-steaks from my last dish and that was just perfect for this. I turned the heat up high and then added a tablespoon of the coarse tomato past and stirred it in until it was evenly spread around the pan. I deglazed the pan with a good splash of Marsala and seasoned the "sauce" with salt, pepper and a little Tabasco... strange but true! I added finely chopped parsley and basil and by now, the pasta had been boiling for 6-7 minutes and was almost done.

I drained the pasta, but not to thoroughly and transferred it to the frying pan and stirred it into the beef and tomato paste, the moisture from the cook-water bringing out all of the flavors of the sofritto, the beef, the herbs and the Marsala... it smelled amazing! I let it finish simmering for a further 2-3 minutes, by which time the pasta was infused with flavor and needed nothing more than a sprinkle of grated salted ricotta to be absolutely perfect! What a treat! A new twist on old traditional flavors- and one I think you are going to love!

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